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Conservation Field Safety Expeditions > News > Uncategorized > Mitigating Risks in Wilderness Environments: Risk Assessments and the Duty of Care (Part 2)
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  • Posted by: CFSE Team

In the previous blog post, we summarized the categories of risk assessments, dynamic risk assessments, explained what it means to have a duty of care, and discussed how these concepts tie into insurance or legal actions. In this second part of the topic, we will be focusing on the context of a university or organization sending a researcher into a dangerous environment with high crime rates and environmental hazards.

Review of Risk Assessments and Dynamic Risk Assessments:

A risk assessment is a systematic process that identifies, analyses, and evaluates potential risks in a specific situation or project. It provides a foundation for effective risk management by assessing the likelihood and impact of potential hazards. In wilderness environments, risks can range from natural disasters and wildlife encounters to rugged terrains and adverse weather conditions.

Dynamic risk assessments, also known as real-time risk assessments, are essential in wilderness environments. They involve continuously assessing risks as situations evolve, allowing for immediate response and adaptation. Consider a scenario where a research team is hiking in a wilderness area known for bear sightings. A dynamic risk assessment would involve regularly monitoring the surroundings, identifying signs of bear activity, and adjusting the route or behaviour accordingly. This proactive approach enables the team to minimize potential harm.

Mitigating Risks in Wilderness Environments:

1. Natural Disasters: In areas prone to natural disasters like earthquakes or flash floods, conducting a thorough risk assessment beforehand is crucial. Mitigation measures could include establishing evacuation procedures, ensuring access to emergency communication devices, and educating team members on emergency protocols.

2. Wildlife Encounters: The presence of wildlife poses inherent risks in wilderness environments. A comprehensive risk assessment would involve researching the local wildlife, understanding their behaviour, and implementing measures such as carrying bear spray, storing food securely, and maintaining safe distances to minimize potential conflicts.

3. Adverse Weather Conditions: Unpredictable weather can be a significant risk factor. Proper risk assessments would consider the weather patterns and equip the team with appropriate gear, including waterproof clothing, sturdy footwear, and navigational tools. Regular weather monitoring during the expedition would facilitate dynamic risk assessments and necessary adjustments to ensure safety.

The Duty of Care: University Researcher in a High-Crime and Dangerous Environment:

Imagine a university sending a researcher to study an ecosystem in a remote location characterized by high crime rates and hazardous environmental conditions. The duty of care requires the university to take reasonable steps to protect the researcher’s safety and well-being.

1. Pre-Deployment Planning: The university must conduct a comprehensive risk assessment, considering both criminal activities and environmental hazards. This would involve researching crime statistics, engaging local security experts, and obtaining up-to-date information on environmental risks, such as extreme temperatures or local diseases.

2. Risk Mitigation Measures: Based on the risk assessment findings, the university should implement appropriate measures. For example, hiring local security personnel, providing comprehensive safety training, supplying necessary protective equipment, and establishing communication protocols for regular check-ins.

3. Constant Monitoring: Throughout the research expedition, the university must maintain regular communication with the researcher, ensuring their safety and well-being. This includes monitoring local security updates, assessing environmental conditions, and being prepared to initiate emergency procedures or evacuation if required.


In wilderness environments, where risks can range from wildlife encounters, adverse weather conditions or violent conflict with certain groups of people, effective risk management is paramount. Conducting thorough risk assessments, implementing dynamic risk assessments, and upholding the duty of care are critical for ensuring the safety of individuals in these challenging environments. By proactively identifying and mitigating risks, organizations can enable researchers and adventurers to explore and study nature while minimizing potential harm. Remember, safety should always be the priority when venturing the wilderness. Obtaining new data is not more important than the life and safety of the researchers.

Author: CFSE Team

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